Food & Culture

Types of Sashimi and Why Eating things Raw in Japan Ain’t No Thing But a Chicken Wing (No Big Deal)

“Ewwwww, they eat anything and everything raw, and they’re going to get sick.” Possibly, if you are from a country with large factory farms and poor food safety, that might be true, *ahem,* us Americans.

That comments section on every social media platform is like a “show us you never traveled, without saying you never traveled before” confessional. If they had traveled, they would be aware of which countries you can drink the water in and in which will help to clear your bowels, to knowing that even a 7-11 has better quality foods in Japan than the US division (both of which are Japanese owned but check out Strictly Dumplings video with 21 million views to see the difference).

People eat raw proteins around the world, and in Japan, it is called sashimi, and I will list the most popular types, the banned ones, and the various styles of preparation (sauces and toppings).

I remember as a kid eating massive plates of tuna sashimi, but oddly with lettuce. How this combo came about, I have no clue. It was not till I traveled about and lived in California to realize it was not commonplace, and I assume it was a daikon alternative?

Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

Eating raw proteins throughout the world go back several centuries

Almost on every continent from Asia, the Americas, Europe, to Africa has a country or region that has a dish where proteins are eaten raw from eggs, seafood: fish, shellfish, cephalopods, to meat: goat, cow, horse, mutton.

Regional Japanese dishes, like sukiyaki, are eaten with a raw egg (as a dip), and fugu sashimi (poisonous puffer fish) is consumed relatively safely in Japan due to strict laws and training. Skills and traditions dating back several centuries regarding the proper handling and preparation of eggs, meat, and seafood intended to be eaten raw.

It is not the same as eating raw meats in the US, and you won’t find fugu (contain tetrodotoxin and/or saxitoxin which can lead to death) at any of your local eateries because the food handling/safety and training standards in Japan have been practiced for a several centuries. In the US, the FDA heavily restricts the consumption of pufferfish.

The last time an American prominently ate raw eggs was Rocky in 1976, but in Japan, many Japanese eat raw eggs as a dip for sukiyaki or breakfast, like in TKG (tamago kake gohan) on the daily. The latter dish is simply a raw egg, rice, and a dash or two of soy sauce, and you can find the recipe on (you just might want to use a pasteurized egg if you are outside of Japan).

Although, if you are planning a trip to Japan, several dedicated restaurants throughout Japan have leveled up TKG to Japanese restaurant worthiness. Some specialize in eggs sourced all over Japan, from Kisaburo Farms (like wagyu, regions of Japan specialize in chicken/eggs) to a whipped egg white meringue at Kichijoji TKG a Story of Eggs.

The rate of S. Enteritidis contamination in commercial eggs is estimated at 0·003% following the Japan-wide surveillance.

As opposed to the US (NIH Library of Medicine): The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Salmonella is responsible for 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States every year.

First things first, the basics: sashimi vs. sushi

I grew up eating sushi and sashimi as a kid since I am Japanese American, so I can tell you how raw liver compares to horse, along with knowing the difference between a hot pocket and a pizza roll.

In the United States, the FDA provides guidance to minimize food-borne illnesses and a large percentage of the fish sold in the US are frozen/flash frozen.

Via the FDA Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance (PDF) which is a good read, and they are also open to other techniques to effectively minimize the risk.
SashimiSliced raw seafood: tuna, yellowtail, mackerel, octopus, salmon eggs, sea urchin, scallops, and the poisonous puffer fish. As for meats, the most common are: beef, and horse meat although you will find chicken.
SushiPrimarily raw seafood with seasoned rice (shari/meshi): vinegar, salt, sugar, and a piece of kombu. There are several types of sushi from makizushi (rolls), temaki (hand rolls), chirashi (scattered bits of fish over rice), to nigiri sushi (seafood over rice).
ChirashiBits and slices of raw fish scattered about on seasoned rice (shari/meshi). Unlike sushi, chirashi does not have uniform and appropriately sized cuts and can be the slices and bits that do not make the cut for the sushi bar placed atop a bowl of sushi rice.
I enjoy sashimi with a hot bowl of plain rice (mmmh, so good), and I cite this because if you visit places throughout the country like Colorado, many of the businesses think Hawaiian poke is Japanese. So confused places like Del Mar by Rooted serve it with sushi rice (what they call “shorizu”) because of their lack of knowledge they will write it off as “fusion.”

Popular Japanese seasonings and sauces for sashimi

The most common sauce is soy sauce (shoyu), although there are types best suited for sashimi. Like with sushi, you can use a typical koikuchi (dark in color and the most common), but the ideal for sashimi is a double-brewed soy sauce (saishikomi) which requires the producer to use almost twice the ingredients and time to produce it. Lastly, for lighter flavored proteins such as white fish (shiromi), a ponzu (a citrus soy sauce) is complementary.

Red meats from beef to tuna will have different seasonings than subtler flavored proteins like shellfish and white fish. Except, almost all sashimi will use a soy sauce of sorts as a dip: koikuchi (general purpose), saishikomi (double-brewed), ponzu (citrus soy sauce), to regional styles.

Basic seasoning for white fish and shellfish include lemon, sudachi (like a lime), or simply salt.
Photo description: thinly sliced pufferfish (almost looking translucent). The fish is layed out in a radial pattern with a momiji oroshi and a shiso leaf for plating.
If you decide to try fugu because Homer Simpson lived to live another day (according to the BBC, since 2000, 23 people have died, but many of them by non-professionals preparing it on their own/at home), on the right (pictured above) is momiji oroshi (grated daikon and chili) and diced negi (green onions) used with the soy sauce dip. Image by Tsuda/Tessa

Unlike food influencers adding things for the sake of an Instagram shot, many ingredients in dishes such as sushi have an importance beyond just looking Instagram worthy.

Wasabi (the real kind, the rhizome) is an anti-microbial: “’6-methylsulfinylhexyl isothiocyanate’ has been identified in wasabi as an anti-microbial agent effective against bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.”

Here is the link for the full article by Joe Schwarcz PhD of McGill University, along with the same conclusions of a study available on the NIH NLM archives.

The most critical were ingredients to preserve proteins before the advent of refrigeration, such as salt, which was not just a flavor enhancer. The second is vinegar which denatures proteins and acts as an antibacterial disinfectant for some food-borne pathogenic bacteria.

The two used together are like the Wonder Twins (obscure 80s reference) in sushi (powers activate in the form of sushi rice consisting of salt, rice vinegar, and konbu) and sashimi (powers activate in the form of shime saba utilizing a marinade in salt and rice vinegar) in Japanese cuisine.

If you are looking for Japanese soy sauce or wasabi brands, here they are.

Red fish
(akami) &
Silver fish
Saishikomi is a double-brewed soy sauce which requires almost twice the ingredients and time to produce it.
Koikuchi is a soy sauce dark in color and the most common.
• Wasabi
• A mixture of grated daikon and chili called momiji oroshi.
• Thinly sliced myoga
White fish
(shiromi) &
Ponzu, a citrus, vinegar, soy sauce blend.
Koikuchi is a soy sauce dark in color and the most common.
• Salt and lemon
• Salt and matcha mixture
• A mixture of grated daikon and chili called momiji oroshi.
• Citrus: lemon to kabosu
Yuzu kosho
• Like everything else, wasabi.
Saishikomi is a double-brewed soy sauce which requires almost twice the ingredients and time to produce it.
Koikuchi is a soy sauce dark in color and the most common.
• Grated garlic
• Grated ginger
• Sliced green onions
• Wasabi
Saishikomi is a double-brewed soy sauce which requires almost twice the ingredients and time to produce it.
Koikuchi is a soy sauce dark in color and the most common.
• Grated garlic
• Grated ginger
• Sliced green onions
• Thinly sliced white onions
• Wasabi
Koikuchi is a soy sauce dark in color and the most common.
Ponzu (a citrus soy sauce) is ideal.
• Grated ginger
• Green onions
• Thinly sliced white onions.
Yuzu kosho
• Sesame seeds
• Wasabi
Sesame oil and salt a Korean influenced dipping sauce.• Thinly sliced white onions.
• Grated/julienned ginger
• Green onions
• Sesame seeds
Pre-seasoned ingredients are used for nigiri sushi although I am including it: nikiri (brushed on mixture of ideally tamari soy sauce, mirin, sake, dashi) to zuke (marinated in soy sauce).

The thinly cut strands of daikon and shiso (perilla) leaves are your typical adornments, and if you are looking to produce some daikon strands, the Japanese brand, Benriner produces a spiralizer that I used every day to do prep at a sushi bar.

Burgers, fries, and buffalo wings are synonymous with American pubs and bars. Although, at an izakaya (Japanese pub) or yakitori-ya (skewered grilled chicken restaurant), you will find alcohol, sashimi, and a variety of small dishes served up tapas style.

The tapas style dishes will consist of grilled, stewed, fried, raw, pickled, fermented, and all sorts of dishes not primarily from a Sysco/Shamrock freezer bag.

Here are some of the most popular and banned sashimi

If you look at any other site, the writer they hired with the psychology degree probably reads the definition and recomposes it. So this shining example of community college excellence will take it a few steps beyond and let you know that it is not always “fresh” fish like Wikipedia says, and also includes aged seafood.

Photo description:
A variety of sashimi fillets/cuts

If you are looking to buy sashimi online, this is the link.

Some freshly caught or slaughtered proteins do not equal tender and “melt in your mouth” like so many Yelpers claim, and many seafood and types of red meat like tuna and beef are to some degree aged (from wet to dry-aged a couple days to months).

Most, if not all the beef in the US has been aged and sushi bars serve aged fish (Edomae/Tokyo vs. regional styles where they like more tooth/bite, like in Osaka or at 715 Sushi in DTLA)

Types of sashimi and how it is prepared

In order of availability and ease of entry into the world of eating raw.

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Akami (Red) and Shiromi (White) Fish

Available in the US and in many other countries.

In restaurants on Main St., US of A, across the country, tuna tataki has made its way onto menus like hot Cheetos on sue-she, which is sashimi prepared on par with a steak grilled blue (seared on both sides and raw in the middle), baby steps before going fully raw.

The first sushi restaurant opened in Los Angeles in 1965.
Photo description:
Applebee’s can’t plate this well. Image by Yu Morita

I think most who have never had sashimi would think fish is slimy, which is maybe why many fear or do not want to try it. Au contraire mon frère, like Bart Simpson, would say, a rare beef steak feels very close to red (akami) and white (shiromi) fleshed fish, and if you have ever handled a raw filet of tuna, it has a somewhat similar texture/feel like pork or beef.

Here are a few of the most popular akami and shiromi sashimi in Japan

I am only naming a few of the most popular because in Japan, fish are named by age, season, and by region so naming all the various types can be a massive undertaking:

  • (Hon)Maguro (Bluefin Tuna): akami (lean), chutoro (medium fatty), and otoro (fatty of the fattiest from the belly). Aside from hon-maguro, there are also kihada-maguro (yellowfin tuna) and ahi (big eye tuna).
  • Katsuo (Bonito): this fish is the backbone of all Japanese cuisine because it is used in soup stock (dashi). As sashimi it is often served tataki style.

Popular white fish include (salmon/sake is probably the most popular amongst Americans although it has grown in popularity in Japan, thanks Norwegians):

  • Tai/Madai (Sea Bream/Red Snapper): firm and mild in taste although this is a very popular fish in Japan.
  • Kanpachi (Amberjack/Wild Kingfish): Similar in appearance and taste to hamachi/buri (young/old yellowtail) although the farmed hiramasa (yellowtail kingfish) is the popular version for sashimi.
  • Suzuki (Sea Bass): I love it when the skin is seared prior to slicing.

Every time I have served tuna tataki which is seared tuna on both sides (in beef terms, served blue or rare like a steak) seasoned with salt and pepper, many thought it was a beef steak, which might be the reason why you find tuna tataki on menu’s across the country.

two-2 icon

Kai (Shellfish)

Available in the US and in many other countries.

Unlike the above, the fresher the better for shellfish which includes shrimp, scallops, crab, sea urchin, clams, and a cephalopod or two.

Tom Hanks and Wilson both know that raw crab is goopy although Korea has a soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili flake marinated version called gejang.
Photo description:
I love me some sea uchin gonads. Image by Sung Ming Whang

From sushi bars and American and Chinese restaurants, it is not uncommon to see live shellfish in aquariums because the fresher the better.

Here are a few of my most popular kai sashimi (not strictly sashimi):

I love uni, but I typically never order it as sashimi, and I opt for nigiri sushi, although I enjoy it anyway I can get it. It was the reason I had to try Providence in Los Angeles which has a “uni egg” consisting of sea urchin, champagne beurre blanc, and brioche croutons.

  • Mirugai (Geoduck clam): this one is so good with lemon because the bite/tooth of it is as enjoyable as rebasahi (also as enjoyable as chasing your coworkers around the kitchen with a girthy phallic clam).
  • Hotate (Scallops): like the above, also great with a bit of shio (salt) and lemon.
  • Ika (Squid/Cuttlefish): I had to list this one because I love me some ika somen which is squid cut into thin strips (ito-zukuri) like noodles. Although, the version I enjoy the most is when mixed with shiokara (salted and fermented viscera, the organs) and yuzu and lemon. Shiokara is not for the faint of heart, and my favorite way to eat squid, like hotaru ika (firefly squid), is with only grated ginger and soy sauce because I am no fan of sumiso.
3-three icon

Hikarimono (Silver Skinned Fish)

Available in the US and in many other countries.

Japanese love hikarimono (I also love it), but most Americans consider mackerel, sardines, halfbeak, gizzard shad, and Pacific saury to be too fishy although most won’t say their beef or pork is too beefy or porky.

Like shellfish, hikarimono is also best when fresh, otherwise it is cured with salt or rice vingear.
Photo description:
I like my beef, beefy, pork, porky, and fish, fishy. Image by Tamaki Sono

This is the type of fish you have to eat fresh, if not, in Japan they are preserved in salt which is a favorite of mine is grilled mackerel, called saba (mackerel) shioyaki (salt and grilled), or marinated in salt and rice vinegar (shime saba).

Here are a few of my most popular hikarimono sashimi:

The Japanese and I love hikarimono (“shiny fish”) because they are tasty AF, and they are great raw and grilled, especially shishamo (a smelt native to Hokkaido) and sanma (Pacific saury).

Due to the small size of the fish, the entire body, including the head, come plated, and nothing goes to waste, such as the bones getting deep-fried into “bone crackers” (hone-senbei). All are served up with a side of grated ginger, green onions, and soy sauce/ponzu.

  • Aji (Horse Mackerel)
  • Sanma (Pacific saury)
  • Saba/Shime Saba (Mackerel/Marinated)
4-four icon

Basashi (Horse)

Illegal for consumption in the US and you will have to go to Russia, Italy France, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, and China. There are more countries, but I didn’t find a readily and credibly available source.

Gordon Ramsay knows how good horse meat is, and the poeple of Japan, the environment, and I know how great it is raw (here’s a video of my homie trying it the first time).

The domestic horse came from central Asia, but eventually made it’s way to the Americas where horses were also eaten (like with the Navajo) up till 2007 (horse meat was banned, due to the meat, being unregulated from drugs and substances fed to horses, making them unfit for human consumption).
Photo description:
I am soooooooo hungry, I can eat a raw horse. Image by Hajime Nakano

Throughout our short human history, people have eaten horses, and in parts of the world, they still eat horses. Although, when a country like the US deems something “pet worthy,” it’s a no-go (pigs still have not made that list, and they remain in the tasty zone).

5-five icon

Torisashi (Chicken)

Not available anywhere other than Japan.

Not nearly as popular as the banned sashimi listed below or any of the above, but if you ever want to try any raw protein, try it in Japan.

If you believe a website/organization (FFAC) which is trying to end factory farming, they claim 99 percent of chicken consumed in the United States comes from factory farming.
Photo description:
I think I need to give it another go when I am in Japan, not via a package of Foster Farms. Image by Yuichi Kosio

Not my favorite of the bunch because I do not feel the flavor or texture (I have heard it’s tender although the one I had was slightly chewy) of the meat has any distinctive positive qualities raw although some are boiled or seared like tuna tataki.

Over at the Food Network, it was either Becky, Karen, or Amy who compiled an article that goes something like (the keywords/phrases): “ewwww, gross, likes it’s a thing in Japan, fear, exclamation mark, exclamation mark, microorganisms, and steer clear” with the conciliatory “I know, so disappointing” to sound neutral on the matter.

Like, if you feel like it’s a thing for you, you might be up for this article by on chicken sashimi.

6-six icon

Rebasashi (Beef Liver)

The vegan (konjac) version is only available in Japan.

Raw beef liver is sooooooo damn good, it should be illegal and unfortunately it is. Back on July 1, 2012 in Japan, it was banned due to an Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) breakout although fruits and vegetables could have contributed to the outbreak.

Japan has a very low rate of incidences among developed countries so there was no significant reduction in cases or deaths (26 deaths during the study period). This is the full study and it’s findings via FSN (Food Safety News).
Photo description: dark reddish hued d
This is in a restaurant in Los Angeles that I would frequent weekly.

I had no love for cooked liver as a kid, and my parents would have me sit at the table till I finished it, which never happened because the more you cook liver, the drier and chalkier the texture gets. The only highlight of the dish was the onions that my mom would prepare it with, which I assume was due to my dad because liver and onions are a classic German dish. A dish he may have eaten during his military service when he was stationed in Germany.

A decade or two later and as a semi-mature adult, I realized all too many proteins are best prepared medium rare to raw, or still moo’ing. Unfortunately, this adult only had a few years to enjoy raw liver because not only is it illegal in Japan, but finding it in the United States is on the DL (down low).

Out of all the fish, shellfish, and beef, it’s hard to lockdown a top 3, but I love me some liver sashimi because it has a brisk bite like a pear which has texture close to Jell-O or the vegan option, konnyaku (konjac plant), and the salt, sesame oil, and raw sliced onions takes the dish over the top.

‘Like it’s a thing in” Lebanon and the Lebanese have blogger, Anissa ( who would eat it for breakfast from a freshly killed lamb, and I wish I had that option.

The most widely eaten meat in the world is pork, and only one country is known for raw pork. That country is Germany in a dish called mett (“chopped pork meat without bacon”).

Cheeseheads aka Wisconsinites don’t just eat cheese and a few still crave a cannibal sandwich.

Other countries eat raw protein like it’s a thing

Japan is not the only country eating proteins raw because as the late Ole Dirty Bastard would say “ohhh, baby I like it raw.” Yeah, baby, I like it raw (Yeah) Ooh, baby, I like it raw.” Like Japan, many of the dishes below date back several several centuries vs. buffalo wings coming about in 1964.

Yes, I know he wasn’t talking about sashimi although his nephew, RZA does love his anime.

The United States is barely 250 years old with a mix of ethnic cultures, so the US consists of dishes from all over the world, some adapted to American tastes. That adaptation rarely involves a food created out of necessity, like before refrigeration, and what we get is sweeter, fattier, saltier, “superfood’ish,” or Instagram-worthy (like sue-she and pooky).

EthiopiaRaw ox, goat, and muttonRaw ox, goat, and mutton are used to serve up 3 dishes: kitfo, tere siga, and gored gored all featured on, but the best writeup is on
FranceSteak tartare Steak tartare consists of minced raw beef, and the original was with horse meat. The beef is mixed with Worcestershire sauce, onions, capers, other seasonings, and a raw egg yolk to bind it together like in mayonnaise (commercial brands use pasteurized eggs).
ItalyCarpaccioRaw thinly sliced cuts of beef, horse, veal, venison, or fish all topped off with a drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and some parmesan as a contrasting flavor/texture.
LebanonKibbeh nayyehMinced raw lamb with fine bulgur (I had to Google what bulgar is, and now I know it is cracked whole grain wheat) and spices. If that sounds delicious which it does because I read Lily’s description, and her recipe on

Also check out “the liver is always served with diced fat tail — both should be at room temperature — and a selection of spices: white pepper, cayenne pepper, sumac, cumin, coriander and salt.”
PokeSliced up raw fish, traditionally skipjack tuna aka aku/bonito, but all sorts of fish (ahi tuna and salmon) and octopus are common. The seafood is a mixture of soy sauce (da 808 prefers Aloha shoyu), Maui onion, green onion, sesame oil, kukui nuts, Hawaiian sea salt, ogo, or limu (one of my favorite ingredients). I added poke because mainland pooky is not poke, and these two recipes by playswellwithbutter and onolicioushawaii are the legit kine foo. A third site mentions eating it with sushi rice. Why? Just because it’s Asian? FYI, Hawaiians have their own unique culture, and the Japanese influence is a bowl of rice (not sushi rice) that contrasts the salty or flavored food (aka okazu), but not understood by the Laura types who think they are clever by saying they pair it with sushi rice (or like Del Mar in Colorado).
KoreaYukhoeMade up of raw beef, pheasant, and horse. The meat dish is typically marinated with sesame oil, garlic, and other seasonings including a raw egg.
PeruTiraditoSimilar to a Chilean crudo, a tiradito reflects the Japanese influence on Peruvian food culture with a mix of sashimi and Peruvian contributions of chilis, garlic, and olive oil (full recipe on
Thin shavings of raw frozen fish (I’m hooked on this Yakutian Instagram page, Pandasakha_official where dude is eating this dish).
This is not a comprehensive list but it’s a thing globally.

All countries in the world have some issues and problems with food safety while also trying to feed their population, but when it comes to eating raw, Japan and many other nationalities also has a long history of it intertwined in their culture (they aren’t just eating things on a whim, that’s a viral video thing reserved for Tide pods and Grimace shakes).

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